Operating at a landscape level

As companies explore scalable solutions for meeting sustainability commitments, sustainability systems are looking at how they can support landscape-wide transformation.

Tackling sustainability at scale

The concept of landscape or jurisdictional approaches has attracted significant interest in recent years. Rather than looking at the sustainability of a single production unit, supply chain or sector, landscape approaches recognise that issues like deforestation, habitat conversion, land rights and rural development are often best addressed at a larger scale – across whole landscapes or jurisdictions.

Landscape approaches work to tackle complex sustainability problems like deforestation and biodiversity loss by creating and shaping local enabling conditions such as governance structures. Bringing together all stakeholders – producers, sourcing companies, governments, civil society, NGOs and investors – to work towards common goals has the potential to drive large-scale, lasting improvements.

To support landscape-level transformation, sustainability standards and similar systems are exploring how to create impacts beyond certified production units, and innovating to increase their applicability at the landscape level. Sustainability systems are well placed to contribute to a landscape’s sustainability, as they often address a range of issues that have implications for the wider landscape. These include high conservation value assessments, GHG emissions measurements, and the management of water resources.

Strengthening landscape approaches

The number of promising landscape initiatives continues to grow, but questions remain over whether they're an effective and replicable solution that sourcing companies will support in the future. For landscape approaches to be more than just the latest sustainability buzzwords they need to be able to demonstrate that they're delivering on the environmental and social issues that matter. In other words, they need a credible assurance system – a robust, transparent and impartial means to monitor, verify and communicate progress.

ISEAL members have years of experience and learning that could crucially inform the development of credible landscape approaches, whether this is through the adaptation of practices to apply at scale or through their integration into landscape-scale initiatives.

In collaboration with WWF, ISEAL produced a discussion paper that frames some of the challenges for landscape and jurisdictional approaches to credibly assure and communicate progress. The 2019 paper can be downloaded through the links on the right, along with our 2016 research paper on the contribution of standards to landscape approaches.


For more information on ISEAL’s work on landscapes to date, please contact Patrick Mallet at patrick@isealalliance.org.